Opinion | TD originals

An Electoral Strategy for National Renewal

Tim Canova, who is running for Congress in Florida as an Independent in the 2018 midterm elections, has signed the Contract for American Renewal. (New America / CC BY 2.0)

We have a serious problem with our floundering democracy.

Our elected representatives don’t represent us. Thus, the people have no real voice in the direction and running of the country.

Yes, every election cycle candidates make delightful speeches, offering vague but pleasant rhetoric on all the wonderful things they will do for “we the people” once elected.

Unfortunately, when they arrive in Washington, D.C., amnesia sets in, and they forget the folks back home who put them in their cushy jobs in our nation’s capital. They then take their marching orders from their deep-pocketed corporate patrons slash ruling-elite puppet masters, and we get a country that serves only the rich and powerful, with the rest of us scrambling to survive.

This is why we’ve created the CFAR national electoral strategy.

CFAR stands for Contract For American Renewal. It’s a contract between a candidate for office and the voters in his or her voting jurisdiction—i.e., their congressional district or their state.

The candidate contract idea is simple and straightforward.

The candidate contract takes the guesswork out of voting.

It’s a radical innovation that sets a new standard for electoral integrity. It provides a bulletproof mechanism for deciding where a candidate stands on crucial issues, how serious that candidate is about solving the problems that are important to voters, how serious that candidate is about representing his or her constituents.

In fact, it sets down in writing exactly what that candidate will be doing on 11 key initiatives when he or she arrives in Washington, D.C.—right from Day One.

Every candidate says the right things. They always say what they think the voters want to hear, the things that will get them elected. Everyone understands this.

But talk is cheap. Conjoined at the pocketbook with their rich patrons, our elected officials do not now nor will they in the foreseeable future serve the needs of their constituents. There may be occasional token efforts, but nothing of substance or enduring impact to “promote the general welfare” of the vast majority of everyday citizens will make it into law.

How do we know?

That’s simple. It’s so obvious anyone can see it. You just have to look.

Consider a few of these items:

● Sixty-three percent of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour.

That means more than six out of every 10 citizens want the minimum wage more than doubled. Mind you, the minimum livable wage in urban areas like New York, San Francisco and Boston is over $22 per hour. But an increase to $15 per hour is at least a start in the right direction. What is it now? A paltry $7.25 an hour. And the minimum wage in America has not increased since July 2009. That’s nine years ago. Four Congresses have come and gone without acting.

● Seventy-five percent of voters want fair trade agreements protecting jobs, workers, the environment. Seventy-five percent. That’s a huge majority opposed to the trade bills which give corporations enormous advantages, are responsible for exporting our jobs, destroying our unions, replacing good permanent employment with low-wage, temporary jobs. Is Congress listening? It’s obvious it doesn’t matter which party is in the Oval Office or even on Capitol Hill. We still get NAFTA, CAFTA, TTIP, WTO. Two years ago, our pay-for-play legislators in the deep pockets of the multinational corporations fast-tracked TPP, the worst trade bill in history. These neoliberal lapdogs won’t quit until we’re all back to being hunter-gatherers.

● Seventy-six percent of voters want a cutback on military spending. So what do we get? Donald Trump proposed—and Congress passed—an increase of $56 billion in the official defense budget with members from both parties egging him on like a bunch of snarling pit bulls. And next year’s official Department of Defense budget is one of the largest ever.

● Seventy-six percent of voters want the U.S. completely out of Afghanistan. We’ve been fighting that miserable pointless war for more than 16 years, folks. They promised to get U.S. troops out of the country by 2014. Now it’s 2018 and they’re putting troops back in. We’re going to be there forever. For what? To waste another $600 billion and have more of our best and brightest come back in body bags?

● Seventy-nine percent of voters want no reductions in Social Security, 70 percent support expanding it. Seventy-nine percent of voters want no reductions in Medicare. Here we have two of the most successful programs in our history, loved and supported by the people. Yet every new session of Congress, there’s talk about cutting benefits and raising the eligibility age. Slash, slash, slash. Or they talk about “privatizing” these programs, which is doublespeak for turning them over to Wall Street so it can gamble with the money we’ve put away all our lives. It’s truly a crime.

There are many more; I’ve just scratched the surface.

But there’s one last one I’ll mention that truly tells the story, that shows what a sad state of affairs our faltering democracy is in. Get this: Ninety-three percent of Americans want GMO labeling. They’re not saying GMOs must be banned. They’re just saying the labels for our processed food should say whether the product contains GMO ingredients or not, so that a shopper can make an informed judgment about whether they want to buy it—a mother who wants to be prudent in planning the diet for her kids, a person who may have severe food allergies and must pay attention to the ingredients on a label. Ninety-three percent. That crosses all party lines, ideologies, religions. It includes liberals, conservatives, all races and ethnicities, and likely, even visitors from outer space. Ninety-three percent. And Congress won’t pass a bill requiring GMO labeling. That really *** says it all, doesn’t it?

Our answer to this obstinacy, this total defiance of the will of the American people, the corruption that has poisoned the political process and all but destroyed our democracy, is the Contract For American Renewal.

The CFAR includes 11 initiatives. These are the things millions of Americans want done—a huge majority of U.S. citizens.

As different as these items are individually, they all have one thing in common: None of them gets through our deadbeat Congress.

Well, I shouldn’t say it’s deadbeat, because it’s not. Our representatives are working hard to make sure none of these things gets passed. They’re working hard not for you and me, but for their rich patrons, their deep-pocketed Wall Street donors, their Koch brothers, their defense contractors, investment bankers and hedge-fund buddies.

As I said, but it’s worth repeating: Candidates always say the right things. Take minimum wage.

“By golly, I believe everyone deserves the right to make a decent living. This is the richest nation on earth. Every person deserves a good life.”

Sound familiar? What’s an elected official going to say? “I think some folks should starve to death on slave wages?” Of course not. But they use a lot of words to say nothing.

The CFAR makes it a simple but powerful yes or no question: Will you commit in writing to raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour? Yes or no?

By using the CFAR, what we’re saying to a candidate is this:

We love your TV ads, you’ve got a lovely family, your T-shirts and bumper stickers look great. But running this country is serious business. So from now on, we want it in writing, in black-and-white, in a legally binding contract, what you will be doing to serve us, the folks who are sending you to your cushy job in Washington, D.C.

We want in no uncertain terms what you will do for us, the majority of citizens of this country, spelled out as an “employment contract” and we are asking you to sign it. We’re not forcing you. It’s your choice. It’s a straightforward deal here. You sign the contract, you’ve got our vote. You don’t sign the contract, we’re looking for a candidate who has the integrity, courage and responsibility to sign it. We’ll be voting for that person. Understand this: There’s no room for negotiation. This is final. That’s the way it works now.

No ambiguity. No compromise. No equivocation. No smoke and mirrors.

Professional politicians have gotten spoiled. They get so much attention, so much money, so many favors lavished on them once they get into office, they forget the most important single aspect of their job description: They work for us. We’re not casting votes for them to talk to lobbyists and rich campaign donors. We’re casting our votes to have them go to D.C. and work on behalf of us, the people, the everyday Americans that make up 99 percent of the population.

Please, readers. Just look at the CFAR. It’s posted here on our website. Everything in the CFAR is what, at minimum, 62 percent of us regular folks want to see happen. On many items, it’s even greater—75 percent, 78 percent, 80 percent. Right now those things are not getting done. Year after year, our elected officials ignore the will of the people, the very citizens who vote them into office. The CFAR, starting in the November 2018 election, will make sure they start paying attention.

Here’s the simple truth. Here’s what’s happening on the ground in real time right now in America.

Voters are tired of slick campaign rhetoric and empty campaign promises. They’re fed up with a system that’s rigged.

They’re fed up with being left behind, forgotten by their elected officials.

They’re tired of everything getting done for Wall Street, the big banks, the corporations, the wealthy.

They’re fed up with nothing getting done for the people—honest, hard-working everyday citizens.

Folks, we need to draw a line in the sand.

That’s exactly what the CFAR candidate contract does. It lets us know exactly who’s on our side and who isn’t.

OK, one last point. People sometimes ask me: “What kind of candidate would sign such a contract?”

The answer is simple: A populist-progressive candidate who wants to win the coming election. The CFAR spells out what the voters want by huge majorities. Voters are sick of compromises. They want the job done and want it done right. The CFAR delivers the certainty they’re looking for.

Having said that, it’s entirely clear what needs to be done on the other side of the equation: Voters need to stand united and stand strong. The message is clear: Vote only for CFAR candidates. Vote only for candidates who are on your side, who will work for you. The CFAR is the new standard by which voters can easily determine if a candidate deserves the job of representing them in Washington, D.C. It’s the mark of a “people’s candidate,” a badge of honor that sets them above their sweet-talking establishment opponents. Support them. Vote for them. Elect them.

Let me add some beautifully twisted logic to further illustrate why a candidate would want to sign this contract.

We all know there are some good people in politics, decent human beings who truly want to do the right thing. But politics is often more about power, money, twisting arms, bullying (sometimes legal bribery) than about doing what’s good for the people.

So let’s say our candidate—who has signed the contract—arrives in Washington and right off the bat, there’s some lobbyist at his or her door. The lobbyist gives his pitch, the typical let’s-see-what-we-can-do-here, the usual I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you’ll-scratch-my-back yadda yadda. He’s got some mega transnational corporation paying him big bucks to wax the slide with Congress and get some favorable legislation passed.

Here’s the beauty of the contract. Our guy or gal, the one who got elected because he or she signed on the dotted line with voters, can say: “Hey, I sure appreciate your coming in and talking to me about this. But here’s the deal. I’m under contract to my constituents. I have no room to negotiate, no room to trade or bargain on any of this. If I go against my constituents on this, I’ll be on the streets without this job, I’ll have to refund all my campaign contributions (and hey, the money is spent, how will I begin to do that?), and I’ll probably get my ass sued for more money than I’ll make in a lifetime. So even if I wanted to go along with what you’re proposing, I have no choice. I am legally bound by contract to answer only to those who voted me into office. Thanks for stopping by. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

See how this works? See why this introduces an unprecedented level of honesty, transparency and integrity back into voting? Do you see why at least in terms of good, decent, honest politicians, we’re actually doing them a favor with this contract?

Let me wrap this up.

In a nutshell, the CFAR puts everyone on the same page.

Voters get a guarantee of service from candidates who are not aligned with or groveling before the corrupting pressures of cronyism and big-money politics.

Candidates who genuinely want to serve their constituents won’t—can’t—compromise and bend under the pressures of lobbyists and other foot soldiers of the ruling elite. Thus, candidates offer honest, loyal, transparent, accountable service to those who elect them.

Activists can devote time and energy to candidates who have guaranteed in writing to deliver on initiatives supported by huge majorities of citizens, with the certainty that their faith and dedication will not be repaid with hypocrisy and treachery, as has happened so often in the past.

Yes, the Contract For American Renewal is a new, untried innovation. But it’s a necessary innovation. Before there were cars, we didn’t need traffic lights. Before big money and unprecedented concentration of wealth and power was transferred into the hands of a ruling elite, we didn’t need an enforceable contract with our elected officials. Times change, and we need to change with them. The CFAR is the answer to the dismal state of our democracy.

Granted, we have a lot of work to do to repair the mess we’re in. But good work depends on good, dependable workers. Let’s put some real public servants in office who will serve the public, not just the rich and powerful. Let’s put some representatives in Congress who will represent everyday Americans, not Wall Street banks, corporate CEOs, not the incomprehensibly rich. Let’s put some integrity back into our elections by electing only those with the integrity to sign on the dotted line, guaranteeing they will listen to and work for the folks who elected them.

Remember, our screwed-up democracy is not going to fix itself. And certainly the ruling elite, the corporate kleptocrats and their bought-and-paid-for lackeys now in Congress are not going to fix it. They’re the ones who broke it.

It’s entirely up to us.

The CFAR electoral strategy is our plan for taking back the power—people power—and building an America that works for everyone, not just the 1 percent at the top: the selfish, ruling elite who will continue to strip mine our economy, destroy our democracy and hack away at the American dream with their insatiable greed and selfishness.

If we stand strong and stand united, we can do this. We owe it to ourselves and future generations.

Vote only for candidates who have signed the CFAR, the Contract For American Renewal, in the November 2018 election.

That simple act can change everything.

Truthdig has taken no editorial position on the Contract for American Renewal.

John Rachel
John Rachel is an author, humanist and social activist. He has written eight novels and three political nonfiction books. His most recent polemic is "The Peace Dividend: The Most Controversial Proposal in the…
John Rachel

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